The Daily Flog

You may have noticed some subtle changes here at the Flog. The site has been given a bit of spiffing up -- nothing too drastic, just a few tweaks here and there. Many of the changes are structural and designed to improve your overall experience when using SJO, especially on mobile devices. (Hey, Mr. Google, we're fully mobile friendly!) We're still making some fixes and smoothing out the inevitable glitches that occur whenever a project of this magnitude is taken on. And believe me, this was a huge undertaking. (By the way, if you notice anything out of place or not working properly, send us a note via the Contact Scott link.)

All of this was done in anticipation of our 6th anniversary on May 14. Six years! That's 72 in independently owned and operated website years. 

And it's all thanks to you. I appreciate the support you've shown by visiting, reading the reviews and news articles, buying the SJO Dining Deals and attending SJO Supper Clubs and pop-up events. And for supporting the good restaurants who advertise here. I always appreciate it when I hear from an advertiser that some new guests came in and said they were there because they saw the restaurant on Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide. So again, thank you.

But let me express my appreciation in another way. Beginning Monday, April 27, and every day, Monday through Friday, until May 14 I will have a drawing for a gift certificate. That's 14 drawings, 14 chances for you to win a gift certificate. I've got some good ones to give away, too.

Rules are the same as always; you can read how to be eligible to win restaurant gift certificates here. The basic thing you need to know is that all winners are drawn from the list of subscribers to the SJO e-letter. If you're a subscriber, you're already entered and always will be until you unsubscribe. If you're not a subscriber, you can subscribe to the e-letter at this link.

So stand by and keep a watch for a message from me in the next few weeks telling you you're a winner.

FMI logoThe Funky Monkey Wine Company is no longer trying to be an Italian restaurant and back to serving its original menu of steaks, seafood and sushi. For a while it had incorporated the name of an Italian restaurant that the parent company, FMI Restaurant Group, had operated in the Sanctuary condominium building in downtown Orlando. So it had the rather cumbersome name Funky Monkey Wine Company's Nick's Italian Kitchen.

According to co-owner Eddie Nickell, the Nick's name is no more and the Italian menu has been scrapped. The company also operates a Funky Monkey at Pointe Orlando on International Drive. It's at that location that it now presents its occasional drag shows. FMI had rebranded another Mills 50 location for that purpose, renaming the Bananas Diner location Divas Dinner Theater. It had also been known for a very short time as Mills Brewpub. Divas lasted an even shorter time period and is now closed.

In fact, according to Nickell, "we are in negotiations to sell the location," so look for something new there, as well.

SLATELogoConcentrics Restaurants, the Atlanta based company that opened Luma on Park in 2005, is returning to Central Florida with two — possibly three — new concepts.

The first is a restaurant called Slate, which will be next to the just-opened Trader Joe’s in Dr. Phillips. The chef there will be Dominic Rice, whose name has appeared on these pages recently. You may recall that Rice was originally to be the chef at Boca in Winter Park. He even moved back to Orlando from New York, where he had cooked at the distinguished Jean-Georges, among other places. Rice left Boca before it opened but vowed at the time to remain in Central Florida.

Rice was also on the staff of Luma when it opened, so he has a history with Concentrics. (Luma is no longer associated with Concentrics.) Slate will feature an open kitchen and a seasonally changing menu. Slate is mentioned on Concentrics website, but gives no details.

Oeno, however, is not mentioned there, but you can look for it to open as part of the I-360 project — oh, let’s just call it the place with the giant Ferris wheel — on International Drive. As you might expect from the spelling, Oeno will be a wine bar. I don’t have specifics, but I’d almost bet it’ll have those damnable automatic wine dispensers.

Concentrics’ chief, Bob Amick, is in town scouting locations for a possible third concept. I don’t have any details about the concept of the location. But seeing as he’s already teamed up with the folks at Unicorp, which besides I-360 also opened the Trader Joe’s in Winter Park, and seeing further that Unicorp is developing the former Best Western Motor Inn across Orlando Avenue from Trader Joe’s, and seeing even further that that redeveloped space will almost certainly have two or three restaurants, one might draw conclusions.

Stay tuned.

Oleys ribs interior

I had a perfectly pleasant lunch recently at Oley’s Kitchen and Bar-b-que, on Rio Grande Avenue near the corner of Michigan Street. It isn’t anything special or fancy, just plain, good food.

The woman who greeted me seemed to be the only one working there at the time, but she was handling all the duties just fine. She graciously offered me the menu and something to drink, then returned a few moments later to take my order.

Oley’s specializes, according to its menu, in both Southern/soul and Caribbean cuisines, so of course I had to have some of each. From the former I got the barbecued ribs, from the latter, stew chicken, not to be confused with chicken stew.

Note: An earlier version of the story misspelled the name of the new chef. It is Rajesh Ramaih.

We know a little more about the fate of American Gymkhana, the very good fine dining Indian restaurant on Sand Lake Road that announced its imminent closing. As I told you then, the management of AmGym and the investment backers have split due to irreconcilable differences. The American Gymkhana concept -- as well as its name -- was developed by Rajesh Bhardwaj, a Manhattan restaurateur who was approached by the owners of Raga, the restaurant that occupied the space prior to AmGym, to try to turn the business around.

He did that, at least from a critical standpoint, but people close to the operation tell me that the partners were not happy with the business side of the operation and wanted Bhardwaj to implement changes that he found contrary to the concept. 

The chef that Bhardwaj brought in from the kitchens of his Michelin-starred Junoon restaurant in New York, Aarthi Sampath, has left American Gymkhana and is returning to New York (where, it is rumored, Bhardwaj may open an American Gymkhana). Now cooking at Sand Lake Road is Rajesh Ramaih, who recently moved from San Francisco. 

Although it was previously reported that American Gymkhana would cease to exist at the end of April, it now looks like it will continue to operate under that name until the middle of May. Then it will be known as Fusion 360. A spokesman at the future Fusion said that the menu would continue to have Indian dishes but would also feature "American" items with an Indian twist -- a steak, for instance, marinated in the same ingredients currently used for the lamb chops.

The restaurant is expected to stay open throughout the transition, though the person I spoke with said it may have to close for a few days just prior to the opening, which is projected for May 15.